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Opinion column by Aubrey Herbert (pseudonym for Murray Rothbard), published in Faith and Freedom, October 1956, pp. 12-13
Along Pennsylvania Avenue - Aubrey Herbert

In a few short weeks, Americans will troop to the polls to climax our quadrennial hoopla—the race for the Presidency. Even if we turn the volume down on the sound and fury, several features of this campaign still can be heard:

(1) Once again, the "intellectuals" called stridently for a "high level" campaign on both sides. This means: don't criticize, don't stir up the public, don't create any issues, don't tell the truth about the opposition.

Past campaigns always served one vital function: even if the two parties happily shared the loot between them in off-years, the call of the election forced them to reveal some truths, to open up some issues. Now that the bipartisan left-wing rules both parties, the more dreary the campaign, the better they like it.

Surprisingly, the "new," hard-hitting Stevenson was a triumph of the practical politicos over the intellectuals.

(2) The display of the grinding, gooey Juggernaut at San Francisco—what Dorothy Thompson sarcastically called Ike's "coronation." Who will soon forget the sight of each Republican at the rostrum put through his or her prepared paces and whisked out of the way? While Big Brother beamed down from a thousand placards!

(3) The most heartening feature: Stevenson's resurrection of a lost issue in America—the draft. Those who object that Adlai will not really end the draft miss the point—for the first time since 1941 we do not simply accept the draft as an act of God. It rings once again as an issue. That alone takes a giant step forward. For this service, Stevenson deserves our thanks.

(4) The other new note struck by Stevenson: a call for ending the H-bomb tests. The standard objection—that the Russians would not keep their word—is irrelevant. Everyone admits that no one can drop an H-bomb anywhere without detection all over the world. So an agreement to stop the H-tests is self-enforcing, and needs no elaborate apparatus of inspection.

Ending the H-bomb tests would not only slow down the cruel armament race; it would stop poisoning the atmosphere with deadly radiation, a poison that endangers the future of the human race itself. Why spread such destruction in peacetime?

(5) 1956 marked the first timid approach to form a third party by the nation's conservatives. They barely began, but they made a start. Supposed to launch a party in the spring, they waited instead until mid-September, when it was too late to get on the ballots of more than a handful of states. The Memphis States Rights Convention selected a T. Colman Andrews-Thomas Werdel ticket for the two top slots.

Why Andrews Repented

They call themselves a "movement," offering the voters independent electors. But sans organization and state slates, it is just a way of blowing off steam, and not a vital political force. On the state level, critics of the Memphis Convention argue, a conservative party could wield a critical balance of power, forcing the major parties to bid for its support.

An example of such force was the Wisconsin Republican primary this fall, where conservative Howard H. Boyle swung the balance of power for the Senate. Left-wing Senator Wiley led moderate Glenn Davis by 10,000 votes, while Boyle picked up 20,000 votes—5% of the state's total. A conservative third party could amass 5% of the vote in every key state.

Foremost of its bright spots is the selection of T. Coleman Andrews of Richmond, Va., for president. Andrews is the eminent symbol of the fight against the income tax. Just as we have welcomed repentant ex-Communists, so now we welcome an even more important figure—the repentant ex-bureaucrat.

After spending several years as Eisenhower's Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Andrews resigned to speak out strongly and courageously for outright repeal of the 16th (income tax) Amendment. We cannot exaggerate the importance of this conversion. Andrews set off a chain reaction that looks to explode all over the country.

In recent months, fired by Andrews' charges, nationwide magazines have speculated on possible repeal of the income tax. If anyone had predicted such a discussion a few years ago, he would have been dismissed as a hopeless crackpot. But now, with growing tax burdens, with Joe Louis forced to wrestle, and cobblers deprived of most of their gains on answering the $64,000 question, the public listens.

Don't Accept Reed-Dirksen

Plans are afoot, we have heard, for a mammoth drive after the election to repeal the income tax. Mixed with earnest hopes for the success of the drive, comes a word of warning: nothing less than complete repeal will suffice. Accept no substitutes. The proposed Reed-Dirksen amendment1 to the Constitution, the warners say, would set vague limits to income tax, but with enough loopholes to permit a practical status quo. Such an amendment would just take the sting out of the income tax without curing anything. Just as the Taft-Hartley law ended the drive against unions without reducing union power, so the Reed-Dirksen amendment would end anti-tax agitation while leaving taxes as harsh as ever.

Some may object: but what taxes would you raise instead? The repealers answer: none! Let the government sell all its enterprises to private individuals, they say, let it slash its expenses drastically, and no added taxes will be necessary. And the best way to force this solution is to deprive the government of this source of revenue.

Amid the current ferment on taxation, many people are looking for bold new solutions. Particularly striking is the blockbuster let loose by the usually staid Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. In the September issue of its monthly Economic Bulletin, the Economic Research Department of the Chamber suggested ending taxes entirely and replacing them with voluntary contributions! Before you dismiss such ideas as crazy, think long and hard. A startingly new idea, perhaps, but maybe the answer to our tax problems.

Let us quote the epochal words of the Chamber at length:

"Suppose all taxes were put on a voluntary basis—like your contributions to the Community Chest, Red Cross, or your church... If taxes were (so) placed ... if each individual were to decide what government's services were worth to him and made his contribution accordingly—would this not provide a criterion for determining objectively the worth of government? How much would be collected under such a scheme? No one knows. But you might ask yourself: 'How much are government's services worth to me?'

Don't Steal, Except As Follows

"Originally, the commandment 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' was unqualified. But today, most social planners are willing to go along with a slight modification: 'Thou shalt not steal outside the framework of the democratic process.' Of course, it is still not considered 'right' for A to go over and rob B, his rich neighbor. But it is quite 'right' for A to organize a group of cohorts into 'government,' levy a tax ... and then proceed to collect from B and redistribute the wealth among A and his henchmen-'expenses of government' ...

"It's all legal, but some 'hardshell diehards' will wonder if it is ethical."

  1. "Proposed Constitutional Amendment Limiting Congressional Power to Tax Incomes, Inheritances, and Gifts", introduced in January 1953 by Reed (House Joint Resolution 103) and Dirksen (Senate Joint Resolution 23). See Dirksen's remarks on 21 January 1955 in the Congressional Record - Senate, pp. 553-554, upon re-introducing the proposal. (Freedom Circle note) ↩︎